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Topic: Nixon article
Posted: Aug/10/2009 at 12:59pm
Watch company targets action-sports athletes, teams with Billabong
By Emily Vizzo
2:00 a.m. August 9, 2009
Online: To view the company's Web site, go to nixonnow.com.
ENCINITAS — Not long after creating a niche for fashionable and functionally pragmatic watches styled for professional action-sports athletes, Nixon founders Andy Laats and Chad DiNenna were steering their company directly toward competition with older watch brands.
Looking for a leg up, the partners in 2005 sold their Encinitas-based enterprise to surf industry giant Billabong International. Since then, they've introduced higher price-point watches, ramped up women's offerings, and last year launched a headphone line touted by Nixon team member and hip-hop artist Mos Def.
They are trying to perfect the art of the detail – the spinach, Laats jokes, not the meat and potatoes.
“It's not just about the watch,” DiNenna said. “We tend to get inspired, and then the inspiration runs the gamut to our other products.”
Laats is now president and DiNenna the marketing director.
“We keep a low profile but we love being in Encinitas,” said Laats, a resident. “Encinitas is really known globally as almost a mythical place because of the surf access – I can be knee-deep at D Street in eight minutes.”
North County is also home to some of the industry luminaries who've signed on with the Nixon team: pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, pro surfer Rob Machado and Olympian snowboarder Todd Richards.
“On any given day, you'll see athletes coming in,” DiNenna said.
They've maintained a laid-back office environment. Employees can loop around concrete floors on skateboards and beach cruisers or stop to pet a dog wandering among the cubicles. There are storage areas for bikes, skateboards and surfboards, and an outdoor shower for post-surf rinses.
“We wanted to keep an atmosphere that was fun and interesting, considering that people might spend more time here than with friends and family,” said DiNenna, a Cardiff resident.
Nixon got its start in 1997 after the partners pitched their plan to investors.
“We broke it down into three things,” Laats said. “You have to have access to the distribution channel, access to opinion leaders and know how to build a watch. We knew that world; we knew the athletes. We had two out of three.”
The partners already had action-sports industry experience. Laats had worked for Burton Snowboards in Vermont for six years after graduating from Cornell University with an English degree in 1989. Originally from Boston, he later earned a business degree from Stanford.
DiNenna, originally from Westlake Village, graduated from Long Beach State University in 1992 with a communications degree and then worked for publishing company Transworld for five years.
Right away, they began polling athlete buddies for design ideas.
“We didn't have anyone from the watch industry,” Laats said. “It was obvious, maybe even naive. Watches are tough. It's only a few inches of canvas; you really have to pay attention to details.”
Surf watches might offer tide-tracking programs; dive watches feature larger dial numerals for easier underwater reading, and altimeters track altitude for snowboarders.
One men's timepiece, The Key, has a recessed winder so that the traditional knobby extension – called a screw crown – doesn't dig into a surfer's wrist as he pops up from the board. A wrenchlike key can be used to adjust the crown and surfboard fins.
“We do these powwows where a lot of ideas are thrown out there,” said Richards, the snowboarder. “They're directly immersed in what we need on a day-to-day basis. There really wasn't a watch category in action sports until Nixon came along and paved the way.”
Nixon debuted with seven watch models in 200 retail shops, opened a subsidiary in France in 2000, and by 2005 had 90 models and 60 employees, with sales growing by 55 percent annually.
“People within the action-sports industry were asking what we were going to do,” Laats said. “We started bumping and being competitive with these billion-dollar watch brands.”
Selling to Billabong seemed like their best bet.
“It really came down to Billabong or not sell,” Laats said. “They understand how brands need to stay autonomous. Sometimes we come to a crossroads: Should we go north or south? It's a phone call away. It's kind of like having an older brother – not a 'Big Brother,' but an older brother.”
Retailers love Nixon products because they tend to offer cohesive accessory lines, said Dave Nash, president of Sun Diego Boardshops.
“They merchandise their line so well; they almost merchandise like a clothing line,” Nash said. “They have a limited production on certain items, and that's so popular now that people know about it before the retailer knows about it and start looking for the product.”
Emily Vizzo is a freelance writer in San Diego.
2010? More Like 1910
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|Quote Reply Posted: Aug/10/2009 at 2:12pm|
Oh how I love Nixon. Many of us around the store rock Nixons. You can see their passion for functional, clean watches.
I happen to be wearing the Capital Automatic right now.
Getting it done since I was young...
25.5 inch stance, compensating for something?
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|Quote Reply Posted: Aug/10/2009 at 4:42pm|
I saw Kier Dillon rocking a white Ceramic Player at the X Games. I want one. But I would never ever drop $1400 on a watch.
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